Love Phobia (Domabaem) (2006) • South Korea

Movie Poster for FailanMelodrama is what the Koreans do best. Love Phobia is standard formula stuff: cute and funny for an hour and then it makes you cry for another hour without dashing your hopes for a happy ending. It's executed extremely well with quirky bits throughout. If you like melodrama this is a grand slam home run. It's an interesting allegory as well but I don't want to give away too much.

Love Phobia is about a girl, Ari, who claims she has a curse and that bad things will happen to anyone who touches her. She also claims to be an alien. The film starts off with her as an elementary school kid who befriends a young boy, Jo-Kang. After he touches her one day he comes down with the measles. Ari mysteriously disappears the next day. Ten years later she reappears just as mysteriously in Jo-Kang's life, and then disappears again. Ten years later, or so, she returns to Jo-Kang again and her true story unfolds.

Hye-jeong Kang plays Ari as a teenager and as a young woman. She is not only cute beyond words, she's one of Korea's best young actresses. This is something that sets Korean melodramas apart, they use real actors and actresses instead of flavor of the month idols. From The Butterfly and Oldboy to this, with a half dozen well-received films in between, including the controversial and complicated Rules of Dating ... Hye-jeong Kang, at just twenty-six, is on a roll. Seung-woo Cho is also very good as Jo-Kang. Both are convincing as teenagers and as young adults, a testament to the Korean epidermis, perhaps, as much as thespian prowess.


All About Love (Tsoi suet yuk chi ngo oi nei) (2005) • Hong Kong

Movie Poster for All About LoveThree gorgeous actors in a beautifully shot but weak-on-plot Hong Kong melodrama with a deal-breaking, dubbed, Mandarin audio track. I hate when they do that. These are Cantonese speaking actors from Hong Kong speaking a beautiful and lyrical language, Cantonese, but there is a bigger market on the mainland so they dub it, that's right, anonymous voice actors dub it with swishy and staccato Mandarin giving the film a spaghetti western toyishness. Tough as nails Anthony Wong Chau Sang comes off squeaking like a little mouse, but I digress ...

Andy Lau's wife dies and her heart is donated to a woman whose cheating husband just happens to look exactly like Andy Lau (puhleaze) and whose body eventually rejects the heart. We're supposed to get all weepy and philosophical wondering if it's the heart that one loves or the body, when in point of fact the fimmaker just wants to give Andy an excuse for having two bodies to play with because he's such a big star. He's awesome, man, differentiating his two characters by varying the amount of peach-fuzz around his mouth. The time-hopping plot and doppleganger aspect make it a little hard to follow. No tears.


Love Exposure (Eoggaeneomeoeui yeoni) Lovers Behind (2007) • South Korea

This is an intelligent film with sharp dialog about two women living on different sides of adultery and it explores how this affects their outlook on, and relationships with, each other and their respective partners, but it's shot and scored like a made-for-tv lightweight drama. It could have been so much better. Tae-ran Lee is a hidden gem: smart, sophisticated, and gorgeous with a million dollar head of hair. You've got to see it to appreciate it.